GENERAL FORECAST: This is not an irruption (flight) year
for winter finches in the East. Most winter finches will stay in the
north. There are abundant spruce cone crops across the boreal forest
in Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland. Most conifers (except pines),
birches and other seed crops are good to excellent in much of the Northeast.
This should be a good winter to see finches in traditional hotspots
such as Ontario's Algonquin Park, Quebec's Laurentian Mountains, New
York's Adirondack Mountains, and northern New England States. For
the details on each finch species, see individual forecasts below,
Three irruptive non-finch passerines are also discussed. The
forecast applies mainly to Ontario and nearby provinces and states.
Most Pine Grosbeaks will stay close to the breeding grounds
this winter because the mountain-ash berry crop is excellent in the
north. The abundant cone crop and a large seed crop on black
ash will provide additional food to hold grosbeaks in the north. A
few Pine Grosbeaks may drift south to Algonquin Park where they are
seen most winters.
PURPLE FINCH: Most Purple
Finches usually migrate south of Ontario in the fall, but this
winter many will remain in the province where tree seed crops are
excellent. At feeders they prefer black oil sunflower seeds.
Red Crossbills are currently widespread in the East. Expect
to see them where there are large cone crops. Red Crossbills
comprise at least 10 “types” in North America. The types are usually
impossible to identify without recordings of their flight calls.
Recordings can be made with an iPhone and identified to type. Matt
Young (may6 at cornell.edu) of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will
identify types if you email him your recordings
or upload them to an eBird checklist.
Recordings uploaded to eBird checklists are deposited in the
reports that Type 10 is the most common type now in the Northeast,
but there are also some Type 3 from the West and a few Type 1 and 2.
See Matt Young’s guide to Red Crossbill
call types in link #4 below.
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: This
crossbill is currently widespread and locally common in Ontario and
Quebec where spruce cone crops are excellent to bumper. Expect to
see White-winged Crossbills this winter in Algonquin Park.
It feeds on native
conifers with small cones such as white, red and black spruces and
COMMON REDPOLL: Most redpolls
will probably stay in the north this winter because seed crops on
birches, alders and spruce are excellent this year. A winter trip to
northern Ontario should yield redpolls. A few Common Redpolls may
get south to Algonquin Park, but likely no farther.
For subspecies ID and photos see link #2 below.
REDPOLL: Hoaries are
not expected in the south this winter because it is not a redpoll
irruption year. A road trip to
northern Ontario is recommended to see Hoary Redpolls.
Watch for them in flocks of Common Redpolls.
For subspecies ID and photos see link #2
SISKIN: Many siskins should
winter in central and northern Ontario where cones crops are
excellent to bumper on white spruce. Siskins relish nyger seeds in
silo feeders. Siskin irruptions related to climate variability are
discussed in link #3 below.
EVENING GROSBEAK: Most Evening
Grosbeaks should winter in the north because conifer and deciduous
seed crops such as black ash are generally excellent to bumper.
However, we may experience an echo flight after the considerable
southward movement last winter.
The best spot to see this
striking grosbeak is the feeders at the Visitor Centre in Algonquin
Park. At feeders it prefers black oil sunflower seeds. The
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)
in 2016 listed the Evening Grosbeak as a species of Special
Concern due to strong population declines in central and eastern
IRRUPTIVE NON-FINCH PASSERINES: Movements of these three
passerines are often linked to movements of boreal finches.
This jay moves south in varying numbers every fall.
Expect a small to moderate flight along the north shorelines of
Lakes Ontario and Erie because the red oak acorn, beechnut, hazelnut
and soft mast crops are very good to excellent in Ontario. Good
numbers of Blue Jays should visit feeders this winter in Ontario.
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH: Boreal
populations of the Red-breasted Nuthatch will not migrate south this
fall. The excellent spruce and fir cone crops will hold Red-breasted
Nuthatches on the breeding grounds this winter. The dynamics and
population consequences of irruptions in the Red-breasted Nuthatch
are discussed in link #5 below.
The excellent native mountain-ash berry crop across the
boreal forest should keep most Bohemians Waxwings in the north this
winter. Some, however, usually wander south into settled areas where
they are attracted to European mountain-ash berries, ornamental
crabapples and buckthorn berries.
TO SEE FINCHES:
Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park is an exciting winter
experience. It is about a 3.5 hour drive north of Toronto and 3.5
hours west of Ottawa. Cone crops, except pines which have small
crops, are excellent in Algonquin so most finches should be present
this winter. The feeders at the Visitor Centre (km 43) attract a
variety of finches. The feeders are easily watched every day from
the viewing deck. The Visitor Centre and restaurant are open
weekends in winter. On weekdays services are limited, but snacks and
drinks are available. The bookstore has a large selection of natural
history books. The Birds of Algonquin Park (2012) by retired park
naturalist Ron Tozer is one of the finest regional bird books. The
nearby Spruce Bog Trail at km 42.5 and the Opeongo Road at km 44.5
are two of the best spots for finches, Canada Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Spruce
Grouse and Black-backed Woodpecker.